|Mani Mahesh Lake|
The Mani Mahesh Lake is situated about 26 Km from Bharmour in the Budhil valley and is one of the main pilgrimage centers in Himachal Prasesh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 13000 feet meters above the main sea level at the foot of Kailash peak at 18564 feet in Chamba district. Every year on the 8th day of the light half of the moon in the month of Badhon or August, a fair is held at the lake where the people come for a holy dip from far off places.
Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of the fair because He is believed to live in Kailash. A rock formation in the shape of Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol on Kailash is considered to be the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The snowfield at the base is called the Chowgan or the playground of Shiva where he sports with his wife Parvati.
Mount Kailash is considered to be invincible as no one has so far been able to scale the peak despite the fact that much taller peaks have been conquered several times. There is a story that once a gaddi or a shepherd tried to climb the mountain with his herd of sheep. The series of minor peaks below the principal peak are believed to be the remains of the ill- fated shepherd and his flock.
There is yer another legend according to which a snake also attempted to climb this peak and was turned into a stone. The people believe that one can have the view of Kailash, if the god is pleased. In case of bad weather, when the peak is hidden behind the clouds is a sign of the displeasure of god.
At one corner of Manimahesh lake is a marble image of Shiva, which is worshiped by the pilgrims who visit the place. After bathing in the holy water the people go round the circumference of the lake three times. The lake and its surrounding present a majestic view. The quite waters of the lake carry the reflection of snow capped peaks that tower over the valley.
Manimahesh is approached from different routes. The people fron Lahaul & Spiti district come from the Kugti pass. Some from Kangra and Mandi districts come via Kawarsi or Jalsu Pass. The most common route is from Chamba, which runs through Bharmour. At present the buses ply up to Bharmour and the jeeps carry the passengers to Hadsar, beyond which the pilgrims have to trek for 13 Km to reach Manimahesh.
Between Hadsar and Manimahesh is another important halting place known as Dhancho, where the pilgrims usually spend the night. There is a beautiful waterfall here, which has an interesting legend behind it. It is said that on being pleased by the devotion of Bhasmasur, the Lord Shiva gave him a boon that whomsoever he touches, would be reduced to ashes. Bhasmasur, taking advantage of the boon decided to do away with the Lord himself. He chased and followed Lord Shiva. The latter entered this waterfall and took shelter behind the caves in the cascading waters. Bhasmasut could not cross the waterfall and started waiting for the Lord to come out. Then Lord Vishnu came to the rescue of Lord Shiva in the form of a beautiful woman. Bhasmasur became interested in the women, but the latter engaged him in a dancing competition. Lord Vishnu as a woman placed the hands on head during the course of dancing. Following these dancing steps, Bhasmasur also imitated her and was immediately reduced to ashes. Since then the waterfalls are considered to be holy and the pilgrims bathe in it before moving on to Manimahesh.
It is widely believed that one can visit Manimahesh only if the Lord so wishes. One may plan a trip but unless He so desires, the plan may not materialize.
Fron Dhancho the people take different routes to Manimahesh. One is through Bunderghati or the Monkey peak and the other is through Bhairavghati, while the third one is through the newly built bridle path. The first two routes are tough and dangerous and only the locals can dare to attempt them. During the fair the route generally remains packed with devotees. The pilgrims sing devotional songs to make the journey less arduous and to enthuse those whose strength seems to be falling.
The next destination is Gauri Kund or the pond of Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is just a kilometer short of Manimahesh. It is a small pond where Gauri Parbati takes bath. There is also a small pond where Lord Shiva is believed to take bath. Those who die during the journey are cremated at the Hadsar village.